Publicly funded cancer researchers present trial results at ASCO 2016


PORTLAND, OR – Investigators from SWOG, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) funded clinical trials group, will make 21 presentations in Chicago next week at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the world's leading professional organization for physicians who care for people with cancer.

At ASCO 2016, SWOG investigators will report on clinical trials involving treatments for a variety of cancers, including lung, prostate, breast, ovarian, colorectal, pancreatic, and melanoma. SWOG researchers will also present on cancer genetics, tumor biology, and patient and survivor care. Of the 21 presentations, 10 focus on SWOG-led trials, including Lung-MAP, the precision medicine trial which tests targeted treatments and the latest immunotherapies for people with advanced squamous cell lung cancer. Now enrolling patients nationwide, Lung-MAP is conducted in partnership with the NCI's National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN), Friends of Cancer Research, and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

In addition, SWOG Executive Officer Dr. Julie Gralow, an internationally renowned breast cancer physician and researcher, is part of a team whose work will be highlighted at the June 5th ASCO plenary session, a spot reserved for the most high-impact cancer trials. Results from this Canadian Cancer Trials Group trial will focus on the use of aromatase inhibitors in treating postmenopausal women with early-stage breast cancer.

"Our presence at ASCO illustrates the power of the NCI's cancer research network," said Dr. Charles D. Blanke, SWOG group chair and professor of medicine at the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University. "When you connect thousands of researchers at academic medical centers, cancer centers, and community hospitals across the U.S. and Canada, you can ask bigger, bolder questions about cancer. By working cooperatively, we do trials no other organization can – and can really move the needle in cancer medicine."

Some highlights of SWOG's ASCO 2016 presentations:

  • SWOG Vice Chair Dr. Dawn Hershman of Columbia University will present an analysis of 26 SWOG trials that found that people with diabetes who receive chemotherapy regimens that include the common taxane class of drugs have a significantly higher risk of developing neuropathy, an often debilitating side effect of chemotherapy that can interfere with daily tasks, work, and sleep. Intriguingly, the study also found that people with autoimmune diseases seem to be at significantly less risk for developing neuropathy. Hershman said the results are important because hundreds of thousands of people with lung, breast, prostate, and other cancers are treated with taxanes each year, and because results may inform the delivery of care and spur additional research. Study findings will soon be published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
  • SWOG Investigator Dr. Guru Sonpavde of the University of Alabama at Birmingham will present trial results that show that changes in prostate tumors measured by CT scan – which are identified in nearly half of patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer – are a reliable, objective indicator of the effectiveness of docetaxel-based chemotherapy. The findings also support the use of changes in CT scan tumor measurements, or Response Evaluation Criteria for Solid Tumors (RECIST) changes, to evaluate new drug effectiveness in Phase II cancer trials. Sonpavde said the results show that RECIST changes can be more reliable measures of new prostate cancer drug effectiveness compared to bone scans and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level changes.
  • SWOG Investigator Dr. Kathy Albain of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine will present results of a study that set out to determine whether breast cancer patients treated with quarterly cycles of progestin along with tamoxifen, one of the most frequently prescribed cancer drugs in the world, can decrease the risk of uterine abnormalities, including cancer, in postmenopausal women. Previous research shows a link between tamoxifen and cancer and pre-cancerous abnormalities in uterine tissue. Albain and team designed the first randomized trial in 296 healthy women to see if progestin would be protective. The group, however, couldn't answer the question. Too few women in the study developed uterine problems, and no cancers were found. Prior literature predicted up to 30 percent of women would develop abnormalities. Albain said that while the study was too small to change medical practice, results might provide breast cancer patients some reassurance that a cure for their cancer most likely won't be the cause of another. Findings will soon appear in Nature's NPJ Breast Cancer.


SWOG is a federally funded network of nearly 6,000 physician researchers at more than 950 sites that design and conduct cancer clinical trials in the U.S. and six other countries. The group's goal is to change medical practice so it improves the lives of people with cancer. SWOG trials are also aimed at better preventing cancer, the second leading cause of death in the U.S. Founded in 1956 and based at the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, SWOG receives major funding from the National Cancer Institute, with philanthropic support from The Hope Foundation.

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Wendy Lawton
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